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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

Cosmograf

When Age Has Done Its Duty

Review by Alison Reijman

Cosmograf is the brainchild of Robin Armstrong, a very talented British musician, writer and producer whose influences are rooted in the classic prog songbook especially Pink Floyd. This is the third album to be released under the Cosmograf brand and has taken 18 months to create and record in Armstrong’s studio in southern England with the help of some of the best of the current crop of prog performers.

This stunning collection also has a wonderful cover design by Graeme Bell which depicts all the elements of the tracks including the ever-present clocks as an elderly figure with a stick gazing out over the next spectral horizon.

Overall, this is one of the most intriguing and lovely albums this reviewer has had the pleasure to hear this year. All the main elements are there – well-constructed, thoughtful songs, poignant lyrics and some delicious musical performances.  It is highly recommended to anyone who wants to hear a twist on Pink Floyd and VdGG within a very modern prog framework. When Age Has Done Its Duty is a concept album and adds Armstrong’s name to the long tradition of English prog story tellers. In this instance, it is Armstrong’s personal musical essay of life from the cradle to the grave – and beyond.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2011  Volume 6 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Into This World

The wonderfully moody opener starts with a ticking clock and a baby’s cry and is a stream of conscious thought on the meaning of life, underpinned by a melancholic piano in a minor key and throbbing guitar riff, followed by a fast and furious guitar solo from Armstrong.

Blacksmith’s Hammer
This is a lovely acoustic folkie song not unlike ELP’s “Lucky Man” which features Almost Eden’s Steve Dunn and is full of childhood memories interspersed with a light and airy electric guitar.
On Which We Stand
A churchlike organ sound is one of the features of another great acoustic song, “On Which We Stand,” co-written with Almost Eden’s Simon Rogers, that again lyrically looks back at the adventures of childhood. There is a really wistful mood pervading throughout along with big slab of synthesiser and electric guitar work from Rogers before it reaches its climax.
Bakelite Switch
This has an inventory of extra sounds such as a brass band and that recurring clock motif before it launches into a huge heavy duty sound driven by the drums of It Bites drummer Bob Dalton. Armstrong is again on vocal duty and it is on this song that it really hits you how similar he sounds to Peter Hammill of Van Der Graaf Generator, both in the tone of his voice and the delivery of the lyrics.  Coupled with this is the blistering lightning fretwork from Luke Machin, The Tangent’s brilliant young guitarist breaking the surface of the song throughout.
Memory Lost
The clock and the words of Prof Stephen Hawkings give way to the most achingly lovely “Memory Lost.”  It is a song to break your heart in little pieces as it deals with the how the aging process robs us of our thought processes. For this, Unto Us’s Huw Lloyd-Jones delivers the saddest and most emotion vocal you will hear anywhere this year  Again, Armstrong comes in at the end with a fabulous guitar solo with echoes of Dave Gilmour.
When Age Has Done Its Duty
A spoken recital on “Growing Old” from Tom O’Bedlam introduces the title track “When Age Has Done Its Duty” which begins with a swathe of mellotron and plaintive piano before Lee Abrahams’ Band’s Steve Thorne adds his classy, emotive voice to the glorious restrained melody. Even the guitar sounds pared back as the song recounts the final moment of life morphing into a church organ and then the most searing, full-on guitar solo from Armstrong, which so beautifully depicts the release of the soul.  However, the rather odds telephone conversation which follows does not quite fit into the overall mood of the song.
White Light Awaits
The mood changes again with this number featuring a choppy electro-synthesiser and insidious beat accompanying Armstrong’s voice turning more sinister and threatening over Lee Abrahams heavy guitar riffs which all rounds off with a swirling synth.
Dog On The Clee

A church clock and birdsong again shifts the mood into a different space with Armstrong taking vocal, acoustic guitar and keyboard duty on the wonderfully mellow and chilled out “Dog On The Clee.”

 
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